The Bank Job (2008) Review
Jason Statham puts on his cockney gangster persona once more in crowd-pleaser The Bank Job. Inspired by true events, the heist film sees a group of criminals get one over the powers that be as they tunnel into bank vaults in London’s Baker Street to loot safety deposit boxes containing cash and jewellery worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Even with the truth behind The Bank Job, it’s an overly familiar tale of robbery and corruption without something extra such as the celebrity swagger of the Ocean’s 11 trilogy or the compelling action of Ronin. As a result, movie doesn’t stand out as finding anything new in the genre, however it applies itself admirably to retell lost events.
In a light-hearted set up Statham’s stock character Terry is approached by old flame Martine Love (Burrows) and offered a simple solution to settle his debts with unsavoury types. Rounding up a team of crooks using his contacts, they are soon burrowing away below ground and joking away. Unknown to them, M-I5 have a interest in the job too – which means the laughter that begins with the dig, soon gets serious as murder is used by the government in an attempt to reclaim damning documents stolen in the raid.
Set in 1971, the robbery itself was bigger than The Great Train Robbery, although you would only know it’s the 1970s from the old cars and a lack of mobile phones. The casual direction applied by Donaldson means there is little time to build up the tension and suspense: Statham and Love are the only characters to be given any depth due to Terry’s alternative family life and Love’s previous history with him. The men in suits operating in the background to retrieve the documents may include Poirot’s David Suchet, yet angry, ruffled faces dominate their scenes in non-descript backrooms. The pulse is set racing a couple of times with the robbers almost get caught while in the bank and later as people are bumped off as various groups try to take control of the situation, however these are lost in a sea of negotiating.
Screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are the team behind the classic television series Porridge, and in a similar way the humour comes from wise-cracking criminals joking with each other while the authorities are presented as corrupt or harsh task masters ripe for having the carpet pulled out from under them. If only they could pull it all together in the same entertaining way. Clement and La Frenais’ last dabblings with gangster writing was with failed All Saints vehicle Honest which was roundly laughed at in the worst possible way. The Bank Job is a much more effective movie in that is has the murder, corruption and deception in the right place but, like Statham’s cockney persona, it’s all been seen before.
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